Hoeven predicts highway bill by June 30, with Keystone included

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) predicts that the House and Senate will agree on a long-term surface transportation bill by June 30, when current funding runs out. 

The member of a House-Senate highway bill conference committee also said signs point to a provision mandating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission  approve the controversial  Keystone XL pipeline being included in the bill.

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The State Department this year rejected the oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico after Congress tried to force it to make a decision. The stated reason was not enough time to consider the pipeline's merits.

“I think we will pass Keystone as part of the highway bill,” Hoeven, who is a chief Senate proponent of Keystone, said, in an appearance on C-Span's "Newsmakers" airing Sunday.

The highway bill conference committee met for the first time this week and publicly there was little sign of compromise.

The senator noted that the House passed a highway bill with Keystone in it by a “veto proof” majority and said that Keystone has 58 senators in support. 

“Sen. Baucus has been very helpful,” he added. 

The House passed its highway bill, which authorizes programs through September on a  293-127  with support from 69 Democrats. Two senior Democrat leaders, Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.) and John Larson (Conn.), approved of the measure. 

Hoeven said that even if gas prices drop,  pressure will remain on the White House to follow an all of the above energy strategy that includes Keystone.